How often have you been driving down the street only to be violently shaken when your wheel falls into a cavernous pothole? How many times have you swerved erratically to avoid being swallowed by a roadside fissure? How often does it feel like you’re driving an obstacle course rather than riding on the highway?
For many motorists, the answers to these questions are sadly, “too often to count.”
However, despite the fact that Florida roads are nationally recognized for better road maintenance than many other states, they’re still vulnerable to the destructive force of potholes.
Carving Out the Cavities: Pothole Causes…
Potholes are created by three main elements: pressure, weather, and time.
- Pressure. The asphalt laid down to create roads is not a single sheet of solid material. Instead, it consists of tiny pieces of compressed granite and sand. As a result, it has pressure weaknesses. As thousands of multi-ton vehicles drive over the hardened mass, granite and sand begin to break down and compress even more. This compression leads to cracks and fissures, which then become gashes and craters.
- Time. Once a small crack is created in the road, the more time that passes before it is sealed, the larger and more treacherous it can become. Traffic exerts continual pressure on cracked asphalt. Also, the road must also contend with rainwater and moisture seeping into the cavity. Water can wash away the bits of granite and sand that the overhead traffic ground down, essentially carving the hole deeper and wider for more water to collect and more space for traffic to gouge out.
- Weather. Florida is fortunate that it doesn’t often have to deal with road destruction caused by snow and ice, which can force small roadway cracks to open wider. However, rainwater can exert nearly the same debilitating effects as snow. In addition, hot, arid conditions can cause asphalt to become brittle and more susceptible to pressure cracks.
…And Pothole Effects
A 2010 report on the American roadway system, compiled from data taken from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, lays out some eye-opening statistics on the nation’s pothole epidemic:
- Close to 66% of urban roadways were in poor, mediocre, or acceptable (driveable but far from perfect) condition in 2008, requiring more than $100 billion per year of maintenance to sustain. Actually improving the roads would cost billions more.
- The American Society of Civil Engineers graded the nation’s roadways on maintenance, driveability, and safety. In 2009, this grade was a pitiful and embarrassingly low “D-minus.”
- Even though decaying and broken roads are a severe health risk to motorists, government spending tends to lean toward new construction (which can create hazardous traffic conditions) and away from routine maintenance. As a result, there is little budgeting for preventive maintenance and regular repairs.
Promote Safety by Bridging the Void
Are there certain areas on your commute that are dangerously pot-marked? Have you ever been injured or witnessed a collision that resulted from a vehicle losing control after striking a pothole? Is your street more of a pothole minefield than a road?
We’d love to read your personal thoughts and experiences with pothole carnage. In the comment section provided, please let us know what you think. Share your concerns and cautions with our readers. Your experience may help others understand the real dangers of these cracks in the road, and keep drivers from taking dangerous risks when driving over them.